Queries and Explications

Comments on 2 John 9-11


"Does 2 John 9-11 apply exclusively to the immediate context, and would you please comment on the text?"

"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 Jn. 9-11).

What Is "The Doctrine Of Christ" In 2 John 9?

Some believe we may have fellowship those who do not abide in "the doctrine of Christ." If a church has a piano or organ in its worship, they will not object. If a church observes traditions of men, such as Easter and Christmas, that is alright, too. 2 John 9, though, is a problem for them. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son."

How do they solve this problem? They say that "the doctrine of Christ" is not the teaching of Christ; it is not the teaching or doctrine he taught, but it is the doctrine, or teaching, about Christ himself; that is, it is the teaching about the nature of Christ's person. If one teaches contrary to the true nature and character of Christ's person, (Christ was completely man, completely divine), then he "hath not God." So, they say 2 John 9 is talking about those things and not about various points of doctrine (baptism, music in worship, proper observance of the Lord's supper, etc.).

Which view is correct? (Would not those who say the passage is speaking about the nature of Christ have to go to "the doctrine of Christ," the things Christ taught, in order to learn about his correct nature?!) Perhaps the following passages will help answer the question:

  1. Jesus referred to "the doctrine of the Pharisees" (Matt. 16:6, 12). Was he referring to the doctrine about that sect, or did he have reference to the doctrine which they taught?

  2. The disciples continued steadfastly "in the apostles doctrine" (Acts 2:42). Did they follow the doctrine about the apostles themselves, or did they continue in the teaching which the apostles made known (Cf. Matt. 28:20)?

  3. The Bible mentions "the doctrines of men" (Col. 2:22; Cf. Matt. 15:9; Mk. 7:7). Are "the doctrines of men" doctrines about the nature of man, or are they the doctrines taught by men?

  4. The Spirit says some will follow after "doctrines of devils" (1 Tim. 4:1). Does that mean they will heed teachings about the character of demons, or does it mean they will go after the doctrines taught by demons (Cf. 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 Jn. 4:1)?

  5. Jesus spoke of "the doctrine of the Nicolaitans" (Rev. 2:15). Was that a reference to teaching about the nature of the Nicolaitan people, or to the doctrine or teaching which they did?

  6. When Paul said that Jesus "was raised from the dead according to my gospel," was he talking about a gospel about himself, or was he speaking of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16)?

  7. If one were to mention "the doctrine of Billy Graham," would you think he was referring to teaching about Mr. Graham himself, or to the doctrine which Billy Graham taught?

Now, to what does "the doctrine of Christ" refer in 2 John 9?

Further, that we may see what the doctrine of Christ is, we make the following observations:

"The people were astonished at his doctrine" (Matt. 7:28). The phrase means "the doctrine of him." Luke says, "And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power" (Lk. 4:32). Again, "All the people was astonished at his doctrine" (Mk. 11:18). The people were astonished at his teaching, at what he taught.

Jesus "taught...many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine" (Mk. 4:2). Obviously, his doctrine was what he taught, not the teaching concerning himself.

"And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes" (Mk. 12:38). Again, this is the teaching, the doctrine of him. It is not teaching or doctrine about him, but it is his teaching about the scribes. It was "his doctrine," the doctrine of Christ, because he taught it.

Are We Limited?

Next, are we limited in our application of 2 John 9-11 to the immediate context?

Perhaps the words of W.L. Wharton will provide some light and insight:

(1) In Mark 7 and Matthew 15, Jesus showed how the Pharisees transgressed the word of God ("the commandment," Matt. 15:3) "by (their) tradition." He cited a certain, specific commandment in "the commandment," the word of God (Matt. 15:1-9). Are we limited in application to the fifth commandment? Or, may we, as McGarvey does so ably in his commentary, use the principle and make modern day applications? The Pharisees' tradition, if consistently carried out, voided one of the ten commandments. If infant baptism were universally applied, what would become of penitent, believing, adult baptism? If the one-man Pastor system of Baptist Churches becomes the norm, what becomes of a plurality of overseeing elders in local churches? (For an answer, just look at the organizational structure of a Baptist Church!)

So what is the point? As we may use the principle of Matthew 15 in modern cases, so we may apply the point of 2 John 9-11. If not, why not?

(2) In Galatians 5:1-4, Paul rebukes the binding of a particular, specific error; namely, circumcision. When confronting a Seventh Day Adventist, may we apply the text to the keeping of the Sabbath and show the sabbatarian his error? When a sectarian cites Psalms 149 and 150 as authority for harps and organs in worship, may we not apply the principle of Galatians 5:1-4 and say, in effect, "every man that uses the Psalms to establish authority for worship in the church is debtor to do the whole law"?

Perhaps every faithful gospel preacher has, at one time or another, made such use of the passages cited. Now, by the same token, may we not take 2 John 9-11 and utilize its principle?

(3) In James 2:1-5, the sin of partiality is reproved. The Spirit uses the example of economic status to illustrate partiality--"a man...in goodly apparel" versus "a poor man in vile raiment." May we take that principle and apply it to race? "For if there come into your assembly a white man and there come in also a black man, and ye have respect to him that is white and say unto him, sit thou here in a good place, and say to the black man, stand thou there, or sit under my footstool, are ye not then partial in yourselves and become judges of evil thoughts?" Is the text being misused when racial prejudice is condemned by the particular principle of James 2?

(4) Acts 15:24 forbids the teaching that circumcision is binding because the apostles "gave no such commandment" concerning it. If one argues that pianos and organs are outlawed in the worship of the church because the word of God gives "no such commandment," does he misapply Scripture? If he argues that as circumcision could not be bound because it was not a given commandment, could he reason that mechanical instruments are forbidden on the very same basis?

(5) In Hebrews 7:11-14, the writer argues that Christ could not be a priest under the Old Testament system, "For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood." Do we err today when, using the same principle, we argue that the Pope cannot be head of the church, for Christ "spake nothing" concerning the papacy?

(6) In Deuteronomy 13:1-3, God said that even if a false prophet's sign or wonder came to pass, they were not to follow that man if he urged them to "go after other gods." Could the Israelites, upon seeing a sign fulfilled, have followed that prophet if he urged them to violate the Sabbath rather then telling them to "go after other gods"? In other words, could they use the principle to condemn other false ways?

(7) The scholarly Robert F. Turner said, "It seems to me that both context and N.T. usage require 2 Jn. 9 to refer to that which Christ taught, personally and through His apostles. John warns of a particular error (that Christ had not come in the flesh) but this does not negate a more general application of the principle given. In 1 Jn. 4:2 are we to understand that the only test for determining those 'of God' is the confession that He is come in the flesh? Or is this simply one example (currently needed) of a broad principle? (Note. v. 6). Do all who say Jesus is Lord, have a 'spiritual gift'? (1 Cor. 12:3). See Deut. 13:2 for O.T. example of citing a specific error to teach a general principle."

(8) From our esteemed brother, Edward O. Bragwell, we extract the following:

Parallel Passages

Note some passages which are similar in theme to 2 John 9. First, our text again, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." Now, listen for the familiar ring and similar theme in the following verses:

"If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (Jn. 8:31). However, "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness....from such withdraw thyself" (1 Tim. 6:3-5).

"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me....If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (Jn. 14:21, 23). Compare, "we will come unto him, and make our abode with him," with, "He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son."

"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you....If ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (Jn. 15:7, 10).

"He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (Jn. 12:48). "The word that I have spoken" is "the doctrine of Christ." Those who obey it are of God; those who do not are not of God (1 Jn. 2:3-5; 4:6; 2 Jn. 9). "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mk. 8:38; Cf. 2 Thess. 1:8).

"If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20). In accord with 2 John 9, those who hear the doctrine of Christ and obey it are in fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:7; 2:3-5; 2 Jn. 9). Those who will not hear have neither the Son nor the Father, but the wrath of God abideth on them (Jn. 3:36; 2 Jn. 9). Therefore, "Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Rom. 16:17).

It behooves us all to be alert concerning those who would include workers of iniquity into the fellowship of Christ through a limited assessment and application of 2 John 9-11. No, I cannot answer every question of application. If you can, you may have this column! However, if we will preach the truth, if we will preach the doctrine of Christ, those who contend for error will draw the lines of fellowship for us (Acts 4:2; 5:28). We will not have to do it. Ultimately, they will go out from us (1 Jn. 2:19). If, for a time, however, they seek to remain among the people of God, feigning fealty to the faith, they will expose themselves with their specious pleas and cries of sympathy for those who teach error. Recognize such whines for what they are, the hypocritical assaults of those who despise the doctrine of Christ and those who teach it. "Being defamed, we intreat," but we are not blind to their nefarious conceits; we are not ignorant of their devices.

Those who cringe and apologize for the truth when it is preached and who disclaim and despise those who teach the doctrine of the Lord are not friends of Christ (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:14-16). They who defend the integrity of those who teach error while they use every veiled and hidden slur against those who oppose error are not loyal to the Lord. "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:8). Choose now, as Moses did, to suffer affliction with the people of God, for the gospel's sake. It is not human loyalty, the friendship of the world, but it is love for the doctrine of the Lord and the support of faithful saints that will be rewarded in that last, great day (Phil. 1:5-7; Heb. 6:10-12). So give our God your hearts and your hands, O, ye of Israel who love his law and delight in his doctrine!

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